Overnight Health Care: Trump officials look to give Medicare plans more drug price negotiating power | Anti-abortion groups in standoff with Trump over fetal tissue research | CVS, Aetna merger clears final hurdle

Overnight Health Care: Trump officials look to give Medicare plans more drug price negotiating power | Anti-abortion groups in standoff with Trump over fetal tissue research | CVS, Aetna merger clears final hurdle
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care, where we hope you ate lots of good food and avoided political arguments with your families.

Back to health news! Trump officials want to give Medicare plans leverage to negotiate drug prices, and a look at why anti-abortion groups are angry with the administration.


Trump administration looks to give Medicare plans power over drug negotiations

Insurers that participate in Medicare's prescription drug program would be able to exclude certain drugs if prices rise faster than inflation, under a new proposal from the Trump administration.

The proposal, announced Monday, is aimed at lowering prescription drug costs for seniors by giving Medicare plans leverage in price negotiations.

Currently, private Medicare health plans are required to cover all or "substantially all" drugs in six "protected" classes, like HIV treatments, antidepressants and cancer drugs, regardless of cost.

This gives pharmaceutical companies little incentive to make the drugs affordable, administration officials said.

What's being done: Under the proposal, health plans would be allowed to exclude protected drugs with price increases that are greater than inflation, as well as certain new drug formulations that are not a "significant innovation" over the original product. The proposal could save taxpayers $692 million over a decade, officials said.

The context: The Trump administration has been working to lower prescription drug prices, and much of the proposal was included in Trump's drug pricing blueprint. The administration also adopted a similar policy of negotiation leverage for Medicare Advantage plans to use for Part B.  

Read more here.


Anti-abortion groups in standoff with Trump over fetal tissue research

Anti-abortion groups and President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE are in a rare situation: at odds with each other.

What's the issue? The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is facing pressure from leading anti-abortion groups to cancel more than $100 million in federal funding for research projects that use fetal tissue.

HHS is soliciting feedback from scientists, anti-abortion groups and other stakeholders as it reviews programs that use fetal tissue before making a decision on whether to nix funding.

Anti-abortion groups say the decision should be easy: Eliminate all fetal-tissue funding.

"It shows a very hypocritical, and in my view, anti-science view to continue funding it," said Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs for March for Life.

He said the funding decision "unfortunately overshadows some of the good stuff this administration is doing. One would hope they'd be consistent with their pro-life message."

Read more here.


Grassley says generic drugs will be the focus as Finance chairman

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump-Pelosi fight threatens drug pricing talks Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators unveil sweeping bipartisan health care package | House lawmakers float Medicare pricing reforms | Dems offer bill to guarantee abortion access Bipartisan senators reveal sweeping health care package MORE (R-Iowa), who is taking over chairing the Finance Committee next year, did not detail new efforts on drug pricing when asked Monday, but said he would continue his work to bring cheaper generic drugs to market faster.

"A continuation of what I'd tried to do as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, although those issues are in the Judiciary Committee that I've been working on, but remember Finance has a big role to play in it because protecting the taxpayers through the Medicare and Medicaid programs, if we can accomplish those goals, mostly getting generics on the market faster, it will save the taxpayers a lot of money," he said.

Context: Grassley has shown a willingness to support drug-pricing actions opposed by drug companies.

If you missed it, here's our look at why the drug industry is nervous about Grassley's new role.


CVS to complete Aetna merger after clearing final hurdle

Aetna and CVS cleared their final hurdle to a deal on Monday after New York signed off.

What happens now? The deal is now expected to close Wednesday. Aetna and CVS say that the merger will improve health-care outcomes and reduce costs immediately.

They have plans to turn CVS's 10,000 pharmacies and clinics into community-based sites of care with nurses and other health professionals available to give diagnoses or do lab work.

The merger also means that there will no longer be any independent pharmacy benefit managers in the U.S.

The deal was cleared by the Department of Justice in October, and New York was the last state regulatory approval that the companies needed.

Read more here.


The Hill event

Join The Hill on Wednesday, November 28 for "Preparing for a Treatment: Alzheimer's Diagnosis and Care" featuring Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment Senate passes anti-robocall bill The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi fires back in feud with Trump MORE (D-Mass.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' Lawmakers call for investigation after census hired registered sex offender MORE (R-N.C.). Editor in Chief Bob Cusack will sit down with the headliners to discuss how we prepare for the possibility of a groundbreaking advancement in the treatment of Alzheimer's. RSVP here.


What we're reading

ObamaCare is having a surprisingly good year (Vox)

Can House Democrats really protect ObamaCare? (Politico)


State by state

New head of Maryland's largest health insurer sees broad mandate to improve care and cut costs (Baltimore Sun)

For Doctors who want to provide abortions, employment contracts often tie their hands (NPR)


From The Hill's opinion page

Congress should enhance reproductive health care for women veterans